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which, though it does not possess the grandeur and sublimity that renders the Alps the palaces of nature, excels them in beauty and immeasurably surpasses them in fertility, the richness of its vegetation and its adaption to minister to the wants of man. Our State possesses, in the greatest abundance and variety, all the best forest trees, with inexhaustible water power, and a fair share of useful minerals. Whatever could be produced in any one of the thirteen States, can be furnished with profit in some parts of North Carolina. Let us, then, teach the rising generation that industry and frugality are better than riches, that truth and honor, virtue and religion, will endure longer than the earth itself.
If the minds of our people are fully imbued with these great and noble ideas, if we continue in the future such earnest, energetic and grand efforts as in the past we made for our political rights, our social system, and to sustain that character for courage and honor which was transmitted to us by the actions of heroic ancestors, we shall yet place North Carolina abreast of the foremost communities of the globe.
THE GREAT METEOR OF 1860.
By Hon. T. L. CLINGMAN.
[Published in APPLETON'S JOURNAL, January 7th, 1871.]
On the 2d of August, 1860, I was at Asheville, Buncombe county, in the picturesque mountain region of North Carolina. On the evening of that day I retired to my room a little after ten o'clock. The moon was full and approaching the meridian, and the night was clear and bright. There was a window on the west side of the room, covered by a white curtain. The candle having been extinguished, my attention was suddenly arrested by a bright glare of light. It was much brighter than a candle would have been, and seemed like a sheet of flame against the window, but before I reached it the light suddenly changed its color and became beautifully white. The thought at once flashed upon me that it must be a meteor, and I saw its outline through the curtain as it exploded in the northwest. The light, at the moment of explosion, seemed as white as that produced by the burning of the metal magnesium. During the whole period that I observed the light it was greater than hundreds of moons would have caused.
On the next day I made inquiries of many persons who had seen the meteor. It was observed by a large number, because the evening was that of the election day, and also because there was a party of gentlemen on horseback in the town to receive General Lane, whose coming was expected. They all concurred in saying that the meteor was first seen in the southeast, but at a point nearer to the south than the east, that it moved toward the northwest, and when due west of Asheville appeared to be at an elevation of forty or forty-five degrees, and that it seemed
to explode in the northwest, with a great display of light. Most persons regarded it as appearing to be equal in size to the full moon, and all agreed in saying that the moonlight was nothing in comparison with its brightness. When first seen in the southeast, it seemed of a dull or pale red color, and became brighter as it moved along, until it resembled the sunlight.
Persons from the surrounding country made similar statements as to its appearance. Colonel C. M. Avery, who saw it while in Morganton, sixty miles to the east of Asheville, described it as not materially different in position and aspect; while persons in Franklin, seventy miles west of Asheville, spoke of it in similar terms, except that it seemed to them higher in the heavens to the west, and more nearly over them. In a few days the newpapers from Knoxville, Tennessee, and from Columbia, South Carolina, came to hand, with similar descriptions, representing the meteor as having passed on the west side of both of those places. When the Raleigh Register arrived from the east, it contained a very clear and minute description of it from the pen of Mr. B. F. Moore, one of our most eminent lawyers. In a few days I saw descriptions of the meteor in two successive numbers of the New York Herald, of the dates of August 7th and 9th. These numbers contained extracts from newspapers, and also letters from various persons, at points widely distant, and covering a great extent of territory.
The most easterly notices were from Guiney Post Office, Caroline county, Virginia, and from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and the most westerly, from Montgomery, Alabama, Holly Springs, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee. The telegraphic correspondents said next day that it had been seen simultaneously at New Orleans, Memphis, Cairo, etc.; and while, according to the statement of two of the papers at Nashville, it was seen to the east of that city, it appeared to pass on the west of Cincinnati, and several other places north and east of it in Ohio. The course of the meteor would seem to have been along a track nearly over the State line between South Carolina and Georgia, then directly above the county of Habersham, in the latter State, near the western extremity of North Carolina, very little to the east of Athens, Tennessee, but west of Knoxville and Cincinnati, and east of Nashville.
I will, in the first place, ask attention to the facts bearing on the subject of the height of the meteor while visible. Raleigh, North Carolina, and Holly Springs, Mississippi, are at least six hundred miles from each other. A few days after I read Mr. Moore's precise and elaborate statement, he and I went to the spot where he had stood at the time he saw the meteor. By means of certain trees and houses, he was able to indicate the line along which it had traveled. By taking the directions with the aid of a compass, it was shown that he observed the meteor when it was twenty-four degrees south of west, and that the point where it was last seen by him was also when it was twenty-four degrees north of west. He saw it continuously as it passed over these forty-eight degrees, but, Holly Springs being a little south of west only, he necessarily saw it at the time when it was in the direction of that place, and he estimated its height as being thirty degrees above the horizon.
From Holly Springs we have a carefully prepared and apparently very accurate statement from Mr. J. H. Ingraham, corroborated by the
letters of several other gentlmen. From that place the meteor was first seen in the southeast, passed on the east side going northwestwardly, and disappeared in a direction west of north.
At its greatest elevation, and when east, it appeared to be thirty degrees above the horizon. It is clear, therefore, that Mr. Ingraham and the other gentlemen must have seen it when it was in the direction of Raleigh. Both observers, therefore, saw the object when it was directly between them, and each estimated it as being at an altitude of thirty degrees above the horizon. If it was equally distant from each of them, and I take it that such was very nearly the fact, it was above a point on the earth's surface not less than three hundred miles distant from them. To be seen at such an altitude, it must, therefore, have been not less than one hundred and fifty miles above the earth's surface. Even if it were only twenty degrees in height apparently, it would in altitude be more than one hundred miles above the earth.
Mr. Samuel Schooler, principal of Edge Hill school, at Guiney Post Office, Caroline county, Virginia, was distant more than seven hundred miles from Holly Springs, and saw it first in the southwest, moving toward the north, and disappearing in the west, or over the State of Kentucky. He states its altitude as being, apparently, twenty degrees above the horizon. As he must have been four hundred and fifty miles distant from its path, his estimate would give a similar or even greater altitude to the meteor. Caroline county and New Orleans are fully nine hundred miles apart, and, if it passed midway between them, it might well have been seen by observers at both stations.
When all the statements published are considered, there would seem to be no reason to doubt but that this meteor, when distinctly seen between Raleigh and Holly Springs, was more than one hundred and less than two hundred miles above the earth's surface. If, therefore, the common opinion be true, that meteors are rendered visible only by passing through the earth's atmosphere, then that atmosphere must extend much more than one hundred miles from the earth's surface. This very meteor affords a strong proof of the correctness of this conclusion. It exhibited at first a pale or dull red color, became gradually brighter, till it attained a silvery whiteness, and then exploded with brilliant coruscations, and, as it moved on, repeated these explosions several times. This would be accounted for on the supposition, that a body originally cold was, on entering the atmosphere, heated by the friction caused by its rapid motion, at first becoming faintly luminous, and then growing brighter, until its surface became so intensely heated as to generate gases, and thus cause explosions, throwing off fragments from its surface, and, as its successive coats became heated in like manner, repeating its explosions till it passed out of the earth's atmosphere, or was finally shivered to pieces.
When this meteor was first visible, it must have already passed for some distance through the earth's rarefied atmosphere, and have dipped deeply into it. It would, therefore, seem to be almost certain that the atmosphere must extend more than one hundred miles from the earth's surface, and probably much farther.
I will now advert briefly to the size of the meteor. On this point the evidence is not so conclusive. Persons are liable to be deceived by
the appearance of bright lights with respect to their real size. Mr. Moore says, when first seen, it appeared to be only six inches in diameter, but, when at the nearest point to him, he estimated it to appear thirty feet in diameter, and of some hundreds of yards in length. He lays much stress on the solid appearance of its light, it being well defined and without any irregular edges. Others say it looked like a railroad train, while some say it was as large as a barrel. Mr Ingraham and others, at Holly Springs, say it was, in size, fully equal to the disk of the moon when full. A similar estimate was made by observers at Antioch College, Ohio, and at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. If a body, at a distance of three hundred miles, should appear as large as the moon, it ought to be nearly three miles in diameter. As this meteor was throwing off luminous gases, it would, of course, appear larger than it really was, especially after it became intensely heated; but when its color was dimmer than that of the moon, the deception ought not to be so considerable. It is also true that the observers generally say its brightness was greater after it had passed and had receded from them.
The amount of light it gave also indicates its great size. Major Francis Logan, of Habersham, Georgia, and R. N. McEwen, then at Athens, Tennessee, nearly under its line of movement, represent it as being larger than the moon, white, "like melted silver," and throwing a light upon the earth "like that of the sun." And yet its brightness is described in terms almost as strong by persons at Holly Springs, more than three hundred miles distant. At Nashville and other points, they speak of this light as sufficient to enable one to pick up a pin. Could any but a large body cast such a light over so great an extent of country? But the most perplexing part of the subject is the rapid transmission of sound from this meteor. Colonel William M. McDowell (who was then, and for several years previous, making observations for the Smithsonian Institution, at Asheville) stated to me the next morning, that, being on horseback and looking downward to the earth, which was already bright in the light of the full moon, he heard a rushing or hissing sound, and, on looking up, he observed the meteor in the southeast, presenting at first a dull-red color, and rapidly becoming brighter. Several other gentlemen in Asheville also declared that they heard such a sound distinctly, and at first supposed the meteor to be a rocket sent up. There were, however, in fact, no rockets at Asheville, nor was there any expectation that they were to be discharged.
Dr. J. F. E. Hardy, (who has since the war been making the observations for the use of the Smithsonian Institution) was then in the piazza of Mr. Cheesboro's house, two miles southeast of Asheville, and declares that he not only saw, but heard the meteor while it was in sight. Being somewhat deaf, he asked the members of the family if they heard it, and had an affirmative reply from all present. Colonel Jolin A. Fagg, who had on that day been elected a member of the Legislature for Madison county, and who was then in the town of Marshall, twentyone miles distant, in a northwestardly course, declared to me that he heard the hissing sound plainly while it was passing. Mr. J. H. Ingraham, writing from Holly Springs, says its passage was accompanied by a hissing sound, if the testimony of a great number of persons was to be relied on. Mr. W. C. Knapp, of the same place, says it was accompanied
by a hissing noise. Mr. A. H. Preston, who writes from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, says a faint, hissing sound was distinctly heard. Major Francis Logan, of Habersham, Georgia, says that persons there generally spoke of hearing it during its passage in the same manner. Mr. R. N. McEwen, who was then at Athens, Tennessee, says that he and his wife, being in the piazza of his house, were both confident that they heard a hissing sound as it passed over them. Seeing its brilliant explosion after it had passed toward the northwest, thinking it only two or three miles distant, they remained standing for some time in expectation of hearing a report, but not until after they had gone into the house, and, as he supposed, an interval of fifteen minutes had elapsed, was there heard a prolonged sound, as the report of a large cannon.
A gentleman who lived near Asheville, stated to me the day after the meteor had appeared, that, on seeing the explosion, he paused in the road for a little while, in expectation of hearing a report, but that he walked afterward nearly around his farm, and, after an interval, he thought of at least fifteen minutes, had elapsed, a heavy sound came from the direction of the meteor.
We have thus the statement of a number of intelligent and trustworthy persons, who were separated hundreds of miles from each other, all affirming the same fact. But as sound is ordinarily estimated to travel but little more than eleven hundred feet in a second, the meteor might be supposed to have been out of the sight of those nearest to it, for at least eight or ten minutes, before the sound created by its passage could have been heard. Were they all mistaken in supposing that they heard it while it was in sight?
Is the ear much more likely to be deceived than the eye? Are not persons generally as confident that they hear the thunder as that they see the lightning? Why should all these persons imagine that they heard such a sound, when it is not usual for meteors, when so seen, to be also heard? Two of them did expect to hear the explosion, and waited for it without imagining that they heard it at the time when they expected it, and only heard it long after they had ceased to look for it. It is but natural that we should hesitate to believe as true what is at variance with general experience and with what seems established in science. Solid bodies had often been seen to come down from the higher regions of the atmosphere, before scientific men accepted the fall of meteorites as an established fact. But the circumstances under which these sounds were manifested were peculiar, and are not necessarily to be assumed as contradicting our general experience. In this instance, a large body was moving with very great rapidity through the atmosphere. We can only approximate in our estimate the speed with which this meteor moved. While some observers regarded it as being from six to ten seconds in sight, the longest estimate of its visibility is that of Mr. Ingraham, viz., twelve to fifteen seconds. He, and others with him. at Holly Springs, saw it in the southeast, and until it had passed to the northwest. One writer says it disappeared west of north. It must, therefore, have been seen to move through a space to be measured by more than a hundred degrees, and it might have been much more. As the meteor, considering its elevation above a place on the earth's surface at least three hundred miles off, was at the nearest point farther from the